Peter Hibberd, M.D., is a doctor whose advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital outpatient and inpatient experience. He is an experienced emergency medicine physician, surgeon, and consultant. Dr. Hibberd is certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine. He is also a fellow and active member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, an active member of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and a member and fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine. Dr. Hibberd has earned numerous national and international professional certifications, memberships, and awards.

Do Vegetarian Diets Lack Key Nutrients?

Monday, 15 Jul 2013 04:40 PM

By Peter Hibberd, M.D.

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Question: I'm thinking about giving up meat and eating a vegetarian diet, but I'm worried that I won't get all the vitamins and nutrients I need. What would you recommend?

Dr. Hibberd’s answer:
 
More people are following vegetarian diets now that information about the adverse effects of regular animal fat consumption is clear. Any time you decide to follow an exclusively vegetarian diet, you may deprive yourself of protein sources without proper guidance. I do recommend you substitute fat-free portions of chicken and/or fish to replace red meat, and be sure your diet does contain adequate sources of iron easily obtained from spinach and other vegetarian sources when red meat is excluded.
 
I am not as concerned about vitamins and trace nutrients, as we usually consume sufficient quantities when our diet is well balanced. I recommend supplements to address documented deficiencies or sometimes selectively to prevent disease (such as fish oil supplementation). Remember that vitamin supplementation has not been shown to extend life, prevent heart disease, or to prevent cancer. Be sure to consult your physician before randomly deciding to self-supplement your diet.
 
If you are planning to follow an exclusively organic vegetarian diet, I do recommend you seek the guidance of a dietitian on referral by your primary care or family physician. If you have not obtained a family physician for yourself and your family, you can get a listing from your local hospital or from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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Dr. Hibberd's advice is based on more than 28 years of hospital work in emergency medicine and surgery.
 
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